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December 1, 2016
by Anna Gibertini
Sponsors and organizers of the 2016 Ratensky Lecture with Rosanne Haggerty. (l-r) Peter Bafitis, AIA; Jennifer Sage, FAIA; Gary Solomon; Rosanne Haggerty; Theodore Liebman, FAIA; and Fernando Villa, AIA.

On 11.17.16, AIANY’s Housing Committee honored the memory of Samuel Ratensky, former New York City Housing Authority director and Monument Man, with a lecture presented by MacArthur Fellow and Jane Jacobs Medal recipient Rosanne Haggerty.

Haggerty is an internationally recognized leader in innovative design and community organization strategies that seek to end homelessness and empower communities. She is a founding member and serves as president and CEO of Community Solutions. An outgrowth of work begun at Common Ground Community, her previous startup, Community Solutions works with local residents and government entities to assure housing for vulnerable individuals, and implement large-scale empowerment initiatives that help families combat systemic and perpetual poverty.

“There are over 60,000 homeless people in New York City; the emergency is now,” Haggerty said. “So, our first question must be: What would it take to connect this person to a basic, safe place to live in right now?” To that end, she has identified two paths to creating these safe places. The first is to create or enable a wider range of housing options. The second is to create high-performing housing systems.

Haggerty referenced several buildings that were constructed while she headed Common Ground Community, now known as Breaking Ground, as examples of an expanded range of housing options. One is The Schermerhorn, an 11-story building in Brooklyn, designed by Susan T. Rodriguez/Ennead Architects for residents pursuing careers in the performing arts. To assist in helping these individuals advance their careers, the Schermerhorn houses a black box theater and dance studio for practice and rehearsals. Another example is the Dorothy Ross Friedman Residence, where tenants share dormitory-style apartments.

The housing systems are more complicated. This research-backed strategy demands collaboration between local residents and their governments to create name-based databases of an area’s homeless population, and then re-locate those individuals to a home with a built-in community network. Community Solutions spearheads this effort through its Built for Zero project, which has already housed more than 61,000 people, including 40,000 veterans, since January 2015.

“We never stop solving these problems, but we devise better systems to solve them every day,” Haggerty said, “We’re talking now about how to succeed and win instead of just how bad the problems are.”

AIANY Housing Committee Co-chair Peter Bafitis, AIA, introduced Haggerty with an overview of the committee’s ethos: that all people deserve a humane, rational, and equitable built environment. The Ratensky Lecture series honors individuals who embody these values personally and professionally. Haggerty undoubtedly fits that bill.

Event: 2016 Samuel Ratensky Lecture: Rosanne Haggerty
Location: Center for Architecture, 11.17.16
Speaker: Rosanne Haggerty, President and CEO, Community Solutions
Organized by: AIANY Housing Committee
Sponsored by: Allegion

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